How social networks have changed the way we eat
The dish is on the table. The knife and fork are set down, and the smartphone picked up. Here's the shot, perhaps some filter added to highlight colours, shadows and contours. The whole arrangement is seasoned by the most popular hashtags for gathering the greatest number of "likes" possible.
This is the #foodporn phenomenon, described as "almost obsessive propensity to photograph all that we are about to taste". This tagline is then followed by others #instafood, #yummy, #foodgasm, #foodlove, #homemade, are amongst the most popular for social media users all over the world. A real "foodmania", which turns every dish posted into a work of art, from breakfast to dinner, all need to be photographed or filmed in a video, for sharing with friends and assorted followers.
Gastronomic voyeurism has elevated food to one of the biggest topics found in the online world. It started with the explosion of themed blogs, equally created by Michelin starred chefs and simple foodie enthusiasts. This was followed by posts on social networks, where even the user least interested in food has shared at least one photo of a tasty dish, on one or more of their profiles.
The social idea of "food porn" is from the late 1980s. The term was coined by Rosalind Coward, a feminist critic who defined food pornography in her book "Female Desire" as: "the extreme, almost morbid attention placed on the presentation of food". In this sense, immortalizing the freshly prepared food becomes a pleasure, an feast for the eyes, an emotion that is moreover the basis of every social experience.
In recent years, a great many restaurants and brands have taken advantage of these channels. Not only to reach a growing number of users with their own specialties, but also to convey important information, closely linked to issues that are increasingly seen as important, such as the product's quality, its origin, the traditional recipe and its sustainability.
Food as a narration, even before consumption. Ultimately, "eating" has always been a shared action between people: from ancient Egypt to present day, food is an opportunity for coming together, for reciprocity and dialogue. The taste of food is a collective aspect, which has always been communicated and shared. "Sharing" on social media is just a contemporary view of this aspect. That sharing, which now becomes viral.
Instagram is the favourite social media channel among lovers of the genre, followed by YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter. On Instagram alone there are more than 200 million posts tagged as food. Food on social media is instant and dazzling: odours, textures and flavours are eliminated; reliant only on the power of images: at the mnemonic level. After three days the human mind remembers just 10% of a written text. Just add an image and the memory retention increases to 65%.
Food porn is not only succulent or high-calorie dishes. There are many sub-categories created by users. From gluten free, to coeliac, for fitness and for those who adopt a healthy lifestyle by combining it with physical exercise. Not to forget vegan, vegetarian and low-carb. Every taste finds its space. Sharing dishes on social media launches culinary trends and guides consumption patterns. Think of pancakes, the traditional sweet breakfast made in the USA, and among the most common dishes on social networks. Available in many variations, from the most calorific, to the most protein rich for bodybuilders and gym enthusiasts.
According to the culinary website Sous Vide Tools, among the most shared dishes in first place is pizza, with more than 19 million posts. In second place, a classic of Japanese cuisine: sushi with 13 million and 481 thousand posts. Queen of the Mediterranean tradition, pasta is the fifth most shared food on Instagram, with 7 million and 134 thousand posts.